Second Massive Solar Project In Ivanpah Gets Federal OK

(February 20)  The federal government has given go-ahead to another large solar project at the extreme northeast end of San Bernardino County.
Tempe, Ariz.-based First Solar Inc.  is the proponent on the 2.6 square mile Stateline Solar Project, which is to be located just west of the California/Nevada border near Primm, Nevada. In giving its blessing to the Stateline Project, which is to lie within San Bernardino County, the Barack Obama Administration also endorsed First Solar, Inc.’s Silverstate South Project proposal, an even larger 3.8 square mile project east of Primm in Nevada.
Both are within the Ivanpah Valley, which occupies portions of both California and Nevada.
On December 30, BrightSource Energy Company’s $2.2 billion Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, the largest solar project ever built, went online. It is located about five miles from the Nevada border, some fifty miles northwest of Needles. It was tied into the state’s power grid last September.
BrightSource’s project consists of 173,500 heliostats, paired mirrors that track the sun and focus the captured thermal energy onto a 459-foot tall tower to produce heat to boil water to create steam to run an electricity-producing turbine, putting out 377 megawatts, enough electricity to meet the needs of 140,000 California homes.
First Solar’s Stateline project will likewise utilize mirrors and the sun to generate heat and run a steam turbine, thereby yielding roughly 223 megawatts, adequate electricity for 82,800 households.
While federal officials and some environmentalists are enthusiastic about the prospect of the availability of copious quantities of energy derived from essentially non-polluting solar fields, some environmentalists had opposed the project on the grounds that the massive undertaking would destroy habitat of the desert tortoise and other wildlife, interrupt or disconnect the passages by which wildlife transit in the desert, and compromise the majestic vistas from the nearby Mojave National Preserve as well as ones of the Soda Mountains, Silurian Valley and the Chuckwalla Valley.
The National Parks Conservation Association, the Western Watersheds Project and Defenders of Wildlife went on record against the approval of both of First Solar’s projects. During the five-year long application process for the projects, First Solar agreed to requirements by both the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that it acquire and set aside 7,200 acres of desert tortoise habitat elsewhere and bankroll $7 million in tortoise protection efforts.

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